How to Successfully Purge Your Wardrobe – Q&A with Katie Anderson of modern-eve.com

How to edit your wardrobe. Closet purging advice from Katie Anderson
Nostalgia has always kept me throwing away old clothes, even when I know they’re past their prime. And even though I know it’s irrational to hang on to old t-shirts from my stint as a cheerleader in high school, until recently I had trouble letting go. My problems were solved when I came across an amazing chart created by Katie Anderson that’s seriously the best method for editing down any wardrobe. I sat down with her to chat about how to remove unnecessary items from my closet.

SB: You made an amazing graphic on how to edit your wardrobe. What are some of the benefits of periodically purging your closet?
K: Regularly purging your closet not only simplifies your dressing routine, but will also contribute to looking and feeling better about yourself. Getting rid of clothes that don’t fit or flatter, are outdated, or are in need of mending or repair leaves you with items you truly love and are excited to wear! This process can also help you see what gaps are missing in your wardrobe, giving you a better idea of your shopping priorities.
Wardrobe-Editing-Decision-Tree-1
Wardrobe editing chart by Katie Anderson

SB: Is a smaller wardrobe always better?
K: In my opinion, a smaller, well-edited wardrobe full of basics and your favorite trend pieces is the way to go. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to shop, wear trends, or buy special occasion outfits. I just prefer to be honest when I know I am not going to wear something any more and get rid of it. Through consignment, swap parties or donations, you can feel good about giving your clothes a new home.
Of course, “small” is relative. Major factors to consider when evaluating the size of your wardrobe are:
  1. Closet size – You won’t wear items that are in boxes. Edit your clothes to fit your space
  2. Climate – If you live somewhere with a true winter and a true summer, you’ll need more options than someone living in a mild climate
  3. Your lifestyle – The number of hats you wear will determine how many types of clothes you need. A corporate woman who hikes on the weekends and attends a lot of charity events will need more variety than, say, a stay-at-home mom.
should I make alterations to this piece of clothing?

vintage Chanel jacket – Farfetch.com, sewing machine – Macy’s, measuring tape – Crate & Barrel

SB: I often end up with pieces that I like in principle but they don’t fit the way I want them to. Should I have them altered or should I try to replace them by purchasing a more flattering alternative?
K: This depends. If the piece is unique and special (say, vintage or designer) by all means get it altered. But, if it’s easily replaced by a more flattering article that you can find at your local mall or favorite online shop, I recommend cutting your losses. Also, be realistic with yourself, if you haven’t taken it to get altered by now, will you ever?
SB: How can I figure out if a sentimental item is really worth keeping? Sometimes it seems like all of my old clothes have some sentimental value. 
K: This is so personal. For me, I err on the side of minimalism and keep very few possessions for sentimental value. I think the best question to ask is, “What am I going to do with this if I hold on to it?” Maybe you hope to give it to your children (I’ve held onto my favorite Kappa Kappa Gamma T-Shirts for this reason) or you secretly want to see if you’ll be able to fit into it on your 30th birthday (not a good reason, in my opinion). Getting to the bottom of the item’s ultimate purpose can help you see if it’s worth keeping. In the end, you can always take a picture.
Dress wardrobe

sequin dress – Gryphon , floral t-shirt dress – Malene Berger, black fringe dress – Marc Jacobs, draped dress – ModCloth

SB: I have a few special occasion dresses that I love because they are so distinct. Unfortunately, this means they are also very memorable, so I basically never wear them. Should I keep them?
K: I think that every woman should have a back-up dress for the following occasions: cocktail wedding, formal evening fundraiser / wedding, charity luncheon / baby shower, funeral, and black-tie gala. If you have unique special occasions or themed events in your life, make sure to also keep dresses for those (e.g. Western theme party or Mardi Gras). Other than that, unless the dress fits you like a glove and makes you feel absolutely beautiful, I suggest consigning them. Hopefully you’ll make a little cash to buy something new and on-trend for the next photo-worthy event.
aromatic cedar closet kit  - Bed Bath & Beyond, patterned boxes - The Container Store

aromatic cedar closet kit – Bed Bath & Beyond, patterned boxes – The Container Store

SB: Do you have any special tips for preventing closet clutter before it happens?

K: Be mindful with your purchases! The best way to keep a clutter-free closet is to not bring junk into it in the first place. Beware of the sale and capsule collection (e.g. Target Designer collaborations) trap. These retail tactics play on your emotions and force many of us into purchase decisions we later regret. Only buy it if you truly need it or would have considered buying it at full-price.

Also, learn to say “no thank you” to hand-me-downs that you don’t truly want. I have a friend whose mother-in-law constantly gifts her old clothes that she doesn’t wear anymore. My friend can’t say “no” and ends up a closet full of clothes she’ll never wear. Same thing goes for gifts. Of course, graciously receive them, but if they’re not you, don’t feel bad returning them or re-gifting them to someone who will truly enjoy them.

With that being said, develop a good system for returns. There’s nothing worse that finding clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them years later. I try to wear new pieces shortly after I purchase them. You’ll quickly discover if it’s not going to fit right or doesn’t go with anything else you own. If I decide to return it, I place it in a bag with the receipt and put it directly in my car. If it’s a mail return, I force myself to package it immediately. Make note of the store’s return policy. Most give you 30 days, but some are only 10 or even 7. Do not procrastinate with returns.

Finally, do not keep clothes with stains or that need mending in your closet. I have two separate laundry bags for these items. It’s really frustrating to put on a shirt that’s missing a button when you’re running late. With my business schedule, I really only tackle these projects a couple times a year, but when I’m ready, everything is waiting for me in one place.

Lastly, if you have a spare closet, I love to keep off-season clothing separate. Who wants to rummage through oversized wool sweaters when you’re looking for your white linen blazer?

SB: Any other advice for keeping the closet under control? 
K: Just this – A woman’s closet carries lot of emotional weight… The items in our closet provide a direct mirror into our body image struggles and tendencies with materialism and financial stewardship. Please give yourself some grace. We’ve all bought items we’ve later regretted. We’ve all spent too much on a dress only to bring it home and discover it doesn’t really fit. We’ve all outgrown some of our favorite clothes. We’ve all stared at our overflowing closets and declared, “I have nothing to wear”. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from getting rid of the same items make you insecure. Release the clothes and the negative thoughts; and give yourself the gift of new space, freedom and the opportunity to fill your closet with clothes that make you feel as beautiful as you truly are.

For more info on Katie visit her blog Modern-Eve
5 comments
  1. Sasha said:

    This is a well written article! Thank you!

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